Django Wexler's City of Stone and Silence is the second book in the cinematic fantasy Wells of Sorcery Trilogy featuring a fierce young woman skilled in the art of combat magic on an epic mission to steal a ghost ship...
Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not planning Shadow Campaigns, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts.
Executive Summary: I enjoyed this, but not as much as the first one, and not nearly as much as his Shadow Campaigns series.
Audiobook: YA books seem to love to do multiple narrators. I've found it a bit of a mixed bag. As both protagonists are female, I didn't really find it necessary to have distinct narrators for each POV. However both narrators were fine.
Catherine Ho returns as Isoka, while Nancy Wu was added to read Torrie's chapters. Both read at a good pace and we recorded at a good volume. While the narration doesn't make this a must listen for me, it's definitely a solid option.
Full Review I'm not generally a fan of YA books, but I'm a big fan of Django Wexler after thoroughly enjoying his Shadow Campaign series.
I thought the first book of this series started a bit slow, but picked up by the end. This book was a bit similar because we're introduced to a new POV, Torrie and for me her early chapters were kind of slow.
Isoka's chapter picked right up where we left off in the last book so I was a lot more engaged in those from the start. I did find Torrie's chapters to get a lot more interesting by the middle of hte book and by the end I was enjoying each of them about equally. If anything I maybe enjoyed the end of Torrie's chapters the most.
I will say the YA romance was a bit sappy at times, but I guess that's because I'm not the target demographic. For me I'm most interested in the world building. The ancient technology and the really cool magic system.
We got some additional details about the Ghost ship in this book, but not a great deal. It was enough to keep me interested in story though.
Overall I thought this book was enjoyable enough, but not quite as good as the last one or his previous adult series.
If anything, book 2 is even better than book 1. Since the backstory and worldbuilding had already been established in book 1, we can jump right into the story here. And what story it is! We thought that just reaching the garden and surviving the Rot had been a challenge. Well it's nothing compared to what awaits our friends from Soliton when it reaches its destination.
I love the fact that Isoka underwent tremendous character growth in the last book, and it continues here. She went from being this ruthless, unfeeling person who was only out for herself and and her sister to becoming a reluctant leader who actually cares about the people she ended up in charge of. This change makes her a lot more relatable and, while I'm sure she had that compassion hidden deep down inside her anyway, it is slowly coming out thanks to Meroe. Meroe loves Isoka, but she also constantly challenges her and makes her take a long and harsh look at her actions. And she leads by example. My only complaint about this book is that we don't get quite enough Meroe awesomeness.
We also get to really meet Isoka's sister Tori in this book. In book one, we only got a glimpse of her through Isoka's eyes, and she seemed exactly what Isoka wanted her to be: a beautiful and innocent upper-class girl far detached from all the filth and violence of the streets. In this book, we get to live in her head as well. And we find out that she is far from innocent and definitely far from detached. The innocence is a façade that she is putting up for her sister and the retainers she'd hired, but underneath is a thoughtful and determined young lady. There is no malice in that act, mind you. Tori knows that seeing her happy and pure off the filth Isoka has to wade through every day makes her sister happy. So she gives her that happiness. Because she remembers the cold and the hunger and the brutality of the streets, and she remembers everything her big sister had to sacrifice to keep her safe. And she loves her for it.
I admit that Tori was the biggest surprise in this book for me. From the glimpse we had of her in book 1, she'd appeared very shallow and young. But we get to follow a young woman with a heart of gold and spine of steel in this book. I can truly say that both sisters are exceptional. I can't wait to see them reunited at last and delivering their own brand of justice to those who wronged them.
And I can't wait to jump into the last book in the trilogy. This is a must read. If you like a thoughtfully created world and wonderfully flawed characters, pick up this series.
In the last book Isoka got stuck on a creepy ship that were trying to kill them, in this book they make it to their destination. A creepy island with things trying to kill them. At least we learn that some ancients built it all, and with dark intentions. Well duh, everything is trying to kill them.
Still not sure why she is a leader, I feel her girlfriend had more leader potential.
It is also the story of her sister Tori who is looking for her. Now this girl has leader potential and is about to cause a lot of trouble in town. I liked Tori.
Lots of death and destruction. I do want book 3now so that I can see how it all plays out
It seemed like there was more teenage angst in this one and it started to drive me a bit nuts. There really wasn't anything new in this book as well. Sure the second character perspective but as far as the world went nothing of real note.
Thank you to tor teen and netgalley for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion in anyway.
CW: Mentioned Torture / After Effects of Torture / Death
I was so excited for Ship of Smoke and Steel last year but was disappointed when actually reading it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great elements. The ghost ship, a bisexual mc, ff and mm relationships throughout the book. But the story as a whole could not quite sell me over.
I am pleased to say that I enjoyed City of Stone and Silence a lot more. In this instance we get a dual perspective. Isoka of course, on the ship, and her sister Tori, in the city. Isoka is trying to find a way to get the ship turned which seems to become even more impossible when it docks somewhere on its own. Tori isn’t quite as sheltered as her sister believes and goes into the other wards to help in a hospital where she can. Unfortunately a big uprising is triggered, and she is right there, at the front.
These two story lines moving next to each other gave the book a bigger dynamic and deepened out the world considerably. We get explanations about the ship and what was its purpose. We see much more of the city and the underlying problems. There are many underlying themes here, but especially in Tori’s story where the unequalness of their world is zoomed in on with the wards. I found hearing where the ship came from interesting and we got more interesting dynamics across the board between Isoka and the other characters in her story line. With just those that followed her (with the exception of her lover and friend) it was getting a little flat. But the addition of other characters created dynamics and reasons for them to question things.
Tori was a joy to follow. She is a little more subdued than Isoka but knows exactly what she wants. The one thing I found awkward is that Tori is 13 for most of the book, she turns 14 at some point, and this is written by a man who lets her mention masturbation (not that this is something that should not be mentioned) and lets her have a somewhat steamy kiss with a 16 year old. Don’t get me wrong, personality wise the couple works. But there is a difference developmentally wise between a 13-14 year old and a 16-17 year old. Adding on that it was written by a man made me feel very awkward. It wasn’t written badly but as a woman and a mom this didn’t quite feel right. Obviously this is a very personal thing however and other might not feel similar to me.
The book as a whole though felt like a step up from the first book and I can’t wait for the reunion between the sisters.
The Wells of Sorcery is the trilogy everybody should be talking about. But the trouble with things published in January is that they’re good for buying with Christmas gift cards, but bad for making it on to best-of lists. Which is a shame, since Ship of Smoke and Steel, the first installment, was a rollicking good time. And now City of Stone and Silence, the second volume, is every bit as thrilling, smart, and badass as the first.
Isoka has made it through the journey aboard the Soliton, but now there comes the destination: an island as much hell as paradise, with days of sunshine and fertile fields, but nights filled with undead terrors and bitter feuds. Negotiating the rival clans and power-mad ruler is made all the more difficult by Isoka's time limits. If she doesn't get back to Kahnzoka within one year, her sister's life is forfeit. She, her beloved Meroe, and her crew burn through plans and battles like mad in order to meet what feels like an impossible deadline.
But Tori, Isoka's younger sister, might already be in trouble with the empire. Isoka thinks Tori is safe inside a upper-class estate, with tutors and maids and guards keeping her properly cosseted. But Tori is haunted by her past on the street and the sudden wealth she didn’t earn. Many nights she makes her way from her soft, protected life in the upper city and goes to work at a hospital in the lower city. She launders bedding, binds wounds, and soothes pains. And she also assists in an underground network that keeps magebloods away from the imperial draft. Magebloods like her. Because Tori is an adept just like Isoka, only her power is not in combat, but over people’s minds.
Both stories move at a very good clip, especially considering the narrative is now split between Tori and Isoka. I loved Isoka's voice and daring from the first book, and thought I might resent Tori from taking time away from her. Tori, though, is her own kind of awesome. Though she's shyer and more polite than her sister, she's not quite the fragile bloom that Isoka thinks she is (and wants her to be, since Isoka needs one innocent thing to keep her motivated in her corrupt world). Tori is intimately familiar with the emotional burden of responsibility that Isoka is only just learning. But Isoka is far more comfortable with her powers and the compromises leaderships requires than Tori. There's a nice balance there, and nothing so crude as having them be "the sweet sister" and "the practical sister." They're each complex enough to change over the course of the book, and distinct enough for those changes to seem consistently interesting and fresh. Also, they both fight mega-dramatic battles in very different and interesting ways. Let’s not forget that part.
This book and this series is just so much fun. The action never stops, the characterization is clear and sharp, and the action is a joy to behold. I mean, at one point, people fight undead dinosaurs with what are essentially lightsabers. There's just no getting around how crazy-cool that is.
This isn't to ignore the serious themes; actually, the overarching idea that individuals can still make a difference added to my enjoyment. Wexler has a lot to say about freedom in times of tyranny, about the ways to use privilege (or not to use it), and about the toll of leadership. This book sometimes felt like zucchini bread: delicious enough to devour, and sneakily healthy besides.
It's the mark of an excellently crafted world when I can pick up a book with only a very hazy recollection of what happened in the previous volume yet find myself instantly recollecting what's going on once I start reading. Now, if only I had book three already sitting on my shelf... high expectations for the conclusion of this trilogy.
I feel like 3 stars is unfair here. I'll call it 3 1/2 and say that this is half of a really good book. I really liked the first book in the Wells of Sorcery series. I like Isoka and Meroe and the Soliton crew, and I loved the half of the book that involved them finding out where the Soliton originated from and trying to find a way to get back to Kahnzoka in time to save Isoka's sister Tori is a 5 star read.
I liked seeing Isoka show a more emotional side, dealing with being a leader and being someone who everyone looks up to, and dealing with having to care about and be responsible for other people. My only complaint was that this section could've used some more development. I would've liked to get to know the people in the Harbor in the same kind of detail we got to know the Soliton's crew in the first book.
Unfortunately, half the book is taken up with Tori's struggles in Kahnzoka. While the story of the uprising in the city and what precipitates it (the ways the government oppresses people, etc) has potential, I just thought Tori's character arc was rushed and what she ends up doing and becoming happens so fast that you're not really given a chance to see how she gets there. I suppose there's an element of reality to that, given the way the situation within the city escalates so quickly, but she goes from being repulsed by even using her powers to find out where guards are and see how they're feeling, and feeling dirty using her powers to save her own life to... well, by the end let's just say her attitude has changed. And yes, she torments herself about it, but it doesn't seem sincere given the things she does and the reasons she does them.
I think part of the problem is that we spent a whole book getting to know Isoka and what she's all about, and we only get about two chapters of Tori before the sh*t hits the fan and she's having to do things she never dreamed she would. Maybe if we'd really gotten into her head in a serious way before she was under all this pressure it wouldn't be so jarring, but once things start happening the way she changes just seems super abrupt. More development pre-revolution and more time to really spend with her during, and more development in this book while it's happening probably would've helped, but the split narrative does her no favors. (It doesn't help that the people around her don't get much development either. I enjoyed the first book and the development in that one so I assume the reason these people aren't quite as fleshed out was just that the author had less space to do so).
I ended up skipping her chapters and reading Isoka's entire story before I went back to finish Tori's part, and I could barely make it to the end.
Maybe something will happen to bring this all together in the third book, and we'll get a good payoff to Tori's arc, but as it stands, I'm only vaguely interested in her face except as it relates to what Isoka will react in book 3.
Overall the book (both halves) have solid action scenes and compelling storylines which kept the pages turning, it's just that one half has a more compelling character to center itself around.
Anyway, I definitely recommend this book (and the first). Isoka's half gets 4 1/2 stars (a half star off for a villain who's a bit too bwahaha cackling madman, but it's not a dealbreaker), and Tori's gets, like, 2 1/2 (half star off for taking time away from Isoka which really isn't Tori's fault lol). I'm hoping Wexler redeems her arc in the last book and gives us a good payoff in the next one, which I am absolutely looking forward to (if only to see what happens to Isoka and Meroe in the end).
In the first book of this trilogy, Ship of Smoke and Steel, we met Isoka, an 18-year-old "mage-blood" who's basically Wolverine with (very small, as we are repeatedly reminded) tits who was part of the criminal underworld in her city before she got forced onto the giant ancient ship Soliton, which sails around the world guided by an unknown intelligence collecting mage-bloods and delivering them.... somewhere.
In book two, the "somewhere" turns out to be a city of the ancients, where the survivors of previous Soliton crews have settled into warring factions while a being known as "Prime" periodically sends zombie hordes out to attack them.
We learned in the first book that besides the Well of "Melos," or combat magic, Isoka also possesses the Well of Eddica, the ability to communicate with and control the dead, and which also apparently acts as a kind of electricity for the strange, ancient technology in the Soliton and the city of ziggurats. The worldbuilding here definitely implies some kind of ancient technology, though it coexists with "magic," which mostly acts like psionic/mutant powers.
So Isoka and her crew have to figure out how to end the fighting, defeat Prime, who is an ancient Eddica adept with a zombie army and control of the Matrix, and regain control of the Soliton.
Throughout this book, Isoka is basically a hero, and there's hardly a mention of all the people she murdered back when she was a ward boss.
This book is split between Isoka's POV and that of her younger sister, Tori, who in the first book was just the reason Isoka is in her situation: she became a ward boss so she could provide a sheltered upbringing for her little sister, and now she's being extorted to try to capture the Soliton in order to save her sister.
Tori, of course, is also a mage-blood. Her Well is "Kindre," or mind control magic. Tori, unsurprisingly, knew a lot more about her big sister's activities than Isoka thought, and has been sneaking out to help the poor and downtrodden and also hanging around with a cute aristocrat boy with naive ideals and a desire to help.
Stuff happens, Tori finds herself part of a growing uprising, and she starts using her Kindre power more and more. At first I was really tired of her whining about how she felt "dirty" every time she used it to expose people's feelings or make them do things and how she kept having nightmares about being a "monster."
Then, as the uprising gets more and more serious and Tori is pushed harder, she actually starts using it in earnest. There is a moment near the end where she crosses a moral event horizon as serious as the one Isoka did at the beginning of book one.
So, despite the fact that this was still a very juvenile, very tropey book about 5E Player Characters running a 3rd to 9th level campaign, I am kind of curious to see where the author takes our two morally compromised sisters in the third book. Will there actually be consequences for their evil deeds, or will they get to walk off into the sunset as heroes because they defeated the bad guys?
The sex and romance remains YA and cringey (Isoka is still getting it on with Princess Meroe while oggling enough dudes to remind us she's bi, and really, did we need to hear about a 13-year-old sneaking off to the closet to masturbate?), the action remains D&Dish, the powers remain comic bookish. It's a lightly entertaining YA fantasy epic where I'm still hoping for everyone to die horribly in the end.
Trigger Warnings for:Violence, gore, death (including child death), mention of rape and forced prostitution
Not quite as good as the first, sadly. Isoka's sister, Tori, gets a perspective, which is fine but they're both first person which is annoying. In addition to that, Tori's chapters didn't really get interesting until about 200 pages in. So her chapters felt like rude interruptions to Isoka's. Once they did kick off, they were interesting, though. Both perspectives, however, added new characters very rapidly who were all nothing more than names and I'm terrible at remembering names so I spent most of this book going "who was that again?". Oh well. Still not a bad read, but definitely felt like set up for the last book.
I absolutely love this story and cast of characters. In City of Stone and Silence we pick up almost exactly right where Ship of Smoke and Steel ended. Isoka and the rest of the crew took control of Soliton, (the Ship) and find themselves at the port of Harbor (the City). However also in this story we get the perspective of Tori who is Isoka's sister and her journey through Kahnzoka trying to maneuver the starting revolution and wondering where her sister has gone.
The one thing that makes this story so good is that it truly is a sisterhood story. Yes each sister has a major plot thread going on but deep down it really is all about them trying to get back to one another. Isoka's story is probably my favorite only because it deals with more of the mythology and mystery of the world. In my review for the first book I talked about how much I enjoy the magic system. Well in this one we get a little more details about one power in particular. I won't say which because it is one that deals with the plot heavily in both stories.
There were some great action sequences right from the get go but that is something Django Wexler does really well. They are so vivid and detailed and harrowing. What is so great about this book to is that characters don't survive. Not that that is a good thing but it is nice to see characters go into battle and not return or even return but critically injured to the point you don't know if they will make it. What I am trying to say is this book has stakes and they are not t be taken lightly.
The only bad thing about this book is the wait for book three. Why is there a wait!
Oh this was unfortunately a bit of a disappointment. I liked the previous book in the series so much. Where that book was much better than expected, this one was the total opposite. The story dragged, lacked the suspense, lacked the action based writing and was generally much less enjoyable. I am hopeful for the next book, I will not give up on this series.
This book is told in two POV’s Isoka’s and her sister Tori’s. I will admit that in the beginning I found Tori’s chapters very boring and they barely kept my attention. After a couple of her chapters it does start to pick up and you start to connect to her a little bit. It was interesting to be back into the world that Tori and Isoka grew up in. I enjoyed learning about Tori and how she is not the pampered princess that her sister seems to think she is. Almost all of Tori’s side characters are also interesting and kept my attention. I liked learning about them and their back stories, I think I might have Garo figured out but you never know where an authors mind is going.
Isoka’s chapters were really interesting they are having completely new challenges. I liked the ideas and world building of where they were. I really wished she had more interaction with Zarun he is my favorite side character next to Jack. Of course I don’t get to pick who she interacts with. Her side of the story wasn’t as much combat as it was in the first book which kind of made me sad, I really missed all of the fighting.
This book had a lot more teenage angst, and talk of how sexy everyone was. That I could’ve done without however they are teenagers sooo it is bound to happen when trapped together for long periods of time. It just seemed a lot more in the second book than the first one or maybe I just noticed it more. It definitely didn’t have second book slump, and I can’t wait for book three. I am loving all of the strong female protagonists.
"'You know what?' I tell the corpse. 'I don't actually care. We all have sob stories, but not everyone decides they need to destroy the world.'"
It's hard to say whether I liked this book more or less than the first one in the series, because they're really so different from each other. The addition of Tori's perspective was definitely what made this book for me, because without it, the book would be about 150 pages shorter and much, much more boring.
Once again, the action scenes in this series continue to impress me with just how well-written they are. It's easy to follow what the characters are doing, even when what they're doing is using their magical powers to throw fire or shoot glowing swords out of their arms.
As mentioned above, I loved the addition of Tori's perspective. I can't say I liked her personality as much as Isoka's, but I did enjoy the juxtaposition between the two protagonists. It added a lot to the worldbuilding, being able to see what people who aren't trapped on a giant ghost ship or an ancient city are like. I also, once again, love this series' ability to have its main characters do bad things, when so many other YA novels will protect their protagonists' moral integrity like the idea of a little murder in a war is a personal offense.
I knocked a star off for about the same reasons as I did the first book- namely, small things like the grammar being a bit strange in places and the plot sometimes feeling a bit contrived and stereotypical. Don't let that fool you, though- I really, really enjoyed this book, and I'll be reading the third one as soon as I can.
The E-Arc City of Stone and Silence was kindly provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has not altered my opinion of the book.
My very high expectations paired with how I kept getting thrown off my the second mc lacking reasoning and the endless world-descriptions, made for a read that I both loved and hated. I think the magic system in this series is really cool and I loved the first book. This simply didn't quite do it for me. It was still enjoyable for the most part and I am definitely reading book 3.
A worthy sequel. Getting both Isoka’s and Tori’s POV in this book was an excellent development. The world building is so intriguing, learning about the wells and the ancients who build inexplainable things like giant boats or stone cities.. And even though the first book already had its share of dark moments, this one certainly went a whole lot darker at times! Great second book and really looking forward to the next one! Thank you for writing :)
Lange habe ich auf die Fortsetzung von Shop of Smoke and Bone gewartet und war so aufgeregt, es endlich auf dem Reader zu haben.
Zwar hat mich Band zwei nicht ganz so mitgerissen wie der erste Band, aber trotzdem habe ich das Lesen wieder sehr genossen. Wexler hat wieder eine rasante Geschichte geschrieben und diese mit vielen für mich interessanten und speziellen Ideen gespickt.
Sehr schön fand ich auch, dass die Beziehung von Isoka und Meroe weiter ausgearbeitet wird. Im Vergleich zu anderen YA-Büchern, die mir so untergekommen sind, wird hier viel weniger herumgekitscht, sondern eine tatsächliche Beziehung beschrieben.
Im Gegensatz zu Band eins kommt hier aber auch Isokas Schwester zu Wort. Hier ist die Beziehungsebene für mich schon etwas zäher zu lesen gewesen, trotzdem ist es auch keine schlechte Idee, zu zeigen, was zu Hause passiert, während Isoka unterwegs ist.
Nun heisst es, auf den Abschlussband der Trilogie warten, auf den ich genauso gespannt bin, wie auf dieses Buch hier.
Man, I miss the Shadow Campaigns. I will acknowledge that partly this is my fault for picking up a YA book and reading it instead of chucking it in the bin. But only partly. Most of this is on the book.
The most obvious problem with this book is that it's simply far too short. City of Stone and Silence is roughly the same length as the preceding entry in the series, but it's split into two entirely separate storylines. You end up with two unrelated ~180 page stories, and you just can't fit anything at all into that.
Ship of Smoke and Steel actually had fairly good character development. Characters are introduced, and the reader's and Isoka's perceptions of those characters evolve as the story does, and we learn more about them. In this book, there's no time for any of that. Characters in Tori's story line are introduced, given one sentence that explains their character (we're told, never shown), and that's that. The same can be said for the few new characters in Isoka's story line, and we get absolutely nothing new from the old ones.
Both of the story-lines work, but it feels like they were delivered in bullet points. It's the length of the book, split in two. There's no time to take in the scenery or the characters. There's barely any suspense because any problem is resolved in the next paragraph. No time to draw anything out. It's obvious that Tori and Isoka are going to join up in the third book, but I don't have the third book. I have this, and it doesn't work.
The content makes me again question why this is a YA book. There are ideas here. They're just hard to see through the "sensitivity reader" approved haze of obfuscation designed to make the book child-safe. If you want to write about violent revolution, with torture, mass murder, and sex (unrelated to the preceding, fortunately), why not choose a genre that actually allows you to explore that? This is what "The Shadow Throne" might have looked like if you let a human resources department at an elementary school censor it.
Finally, this book is written in present tense, which is still like nails on a chalk-board. Storytelling naturally occurs in the past tense, because we are telling stories about things that happened (or didn't happen, in the case of fiction). Nobody would ever tell a story while it is happening in the moment, which is why it's such an awkward and unwieldy technique. It's just so out of plate that it's all the harder to immerse yourself in the story, which is sadly ironic because authors think they're doing just the opposite by using it.
Little less compelling than the first one, didn't love trading off POVs during chapters -- just write two books. Also don't love when male authors make comments about 14 year old girl's masturbation habits, esp when they have no bearing on the story.
3.5/5 Could have been a 4 sans annoying characters
I had several issues with the story... although I pushed through and finished it. 1. All the blah blah blah in times when there shouldn't have been any... 2. The insecure, whiny female characters that needed the support and input of THE WORLD before making a decision. 3. The pretty, can't fight, but ever so helpful supportive female who consistently screams your name WHILE YOU ARE FIGHTING... is soft kind and warm hearted *YAWN*... you get my drift. 4. The unnecessary descriptions of some fights... sigh, when the character should have been doing more important things. 5. The lack of details on WHAT the main character loved about the consort apart from "her beauty that hurts" *eyeroll*
This series is just ok. I want to like it more than I do. This book is a step up from the first one where they were stuck on a giant ship hunting giant crabs. Yea I just wrote that. I'm a grown ass woman and that's what I'm reading. I'm ok with it, but if you're not, just know that's what you're getting into with this series.
I liked the addition of Tori's storyline in this book, but I still find Isoka and especially her relationship with Meroe yawn-inspiring. If I have to read another "my weird princess" lovey back-and- forth, agh!
But I read it. I got through it. It took my mind off covid and my work in a hospital and so on, so hey.